A piece of advice if you're planning to bring the kids to the latest Disney on Ice show, being staged through Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena: dress warmly.
The chilly indoor temps - which one could have anticipated using basic common sense (how else does the ice stay icy?) - was among the few surprises during Wednesday night's opening performance of "Dare to Dream," a perfectly pleasant and pleasantly predictable presentation of three popular Disney princess tales.
A cast of more than three dozen figure skaters runs through key scenes from 2009's "The Princess and the Frog," the classic "Cinderella," and 2010's "Tangled," all of which have been adapted for the ice while retaining original voice work and songs from the animated movies upon which they're based.
These adaptations drop most of the context and much of the backstory; "Princess and the Frog" whips through its retelling in 25 minutes, and "Cinderella" happens even faster, oversimplifying the central romances to a laughable degree.
"Tangled" winds up with the most sweeping narrative arc (relatively speaking), and clocks in at about 35 minutes. It's also got the best costumes, set design, and songs. Kids will marvel at Rapunzel's tower and her famed hair, evoked by beautiful gold silks draped along a curved track high above the ice. All ages will appreciate the strength and showmanship required during the several instances in which Rapunzel and Flynn are hoisted above the rink as they perform aerial maneuvers sans wires or safety nets.
The principal skaters are top-notch. Vicky Black (Cinderella), Soniah Spence (Tiana), Moriah Tabon (Frog Tiana) and Kendra Moyle (Rapunzel) have competitive backgrounds, expressive faces, and gamely mouth the words to the pre-recorded tracks. James Black (Prince Charming) is a charismatic leading man, and Joseph Jacobsen (Flynn) is a proper ham.
Several set-pieces and costumes are home runs. Standouts are the 12 stunning pink flamingo get-ups (featuring full headdresses and 10-foot wingspans) worn by the backup skaters in "Dig a Little Deeper" from "Princess and the Frog"; the magical-looking, lighted horse-drawn carriage that takes Cinderella to the ball; and Maximus, the muscle-bound horse from "Tangled" brought to massive life by both the eye-poppingly convincing costume and the two skaters inside.
There are some stumbles, mostly in the first act. Theron James skates well but oddly doesn't attempt to lip-synch his lines as Dr. Facilier. The audio was not very clear during a couple of early numbers, most notably Mama Odie's "Dig a Little Deeper." And it's a little disconcerting, frankly, to have different skaters portraying the human and frog versions of Tiana and Naveen, since you can still see the frogs' faces.
But in the end, the stories in "Dare to Dream" are told with enough skill and heart that you can overlook the minor missteps, the overpriced Disney souvenirs, and the fact that you forgot to bring a sweater.